The 44-year-old American now faces several years in prison for running a criminal enterprise to unlock cell phones. Working for the T-Mobile operator, the latter used its access to offer the operator’s customers, as well as phone thieves, to unlock their smartphone for a fee, the Phonandroid website reported on August 3. For four years of activity this system has brought not less than 25 million dollars.
The defendant, named Argishti Khudaverdyan, displayed Machiavellian ingenuity to interfere with his employer’s cybersecurity. It all started in 2014 when, from his Los Angeles store, he developed a phishing campaign that targeted his colleagues at T-Mobile to steal their access to the company’s intranet. Thanks to the stolen IDs, Argishti can now unlock smartphones purchased from the operator, of course, for a fee.
Like any carrier, T-Mobile uses a lockdown system on its smartphones to keep customers from switching to competitors before their contracts expire. This practice also prevents users from trying to resell the device at a higher price in a parallel market. Unless this blocking is not to everyone’s taste, but in particular to recipients of stolen phones. A juicy market that Argishti Khudaverdyan wanted to use.
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$25 million mining
A T-Mobile employee will offer his services to smartphone thieves so they can resell them unlocked on the black market. To make himself known, he posts ads on several websites claiming that the unlock service is offered directly by T-Mobile so as not to arouse suspicion among customers.
In 2017, Argishti Khudaverdyan was fired after a cameraman noticed him while trying to steal the credentials of one of his colleagues. Despite this, the hacker continues to offer his services on the black market. He will be finally arrested in 2019. According to investigators, the scammer managed to hack into about fifty internal T-Mobile accounts, taking a staggering $25 million. Now he faces several decades in prison.
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